Digital Radiography (DR) vs. Computed Radiography (CR) Systems

Apr 16, 2023 2:19:00 AM / by Chad Hutchison

As you navigate the world of medical imaging, understanding the differences between digital radiography (DR) and computed radiography (CR) systems becomes crucial for your practice. 

We’ve delved deep into these advanced imaging technologies to bring you a comprehensive comparison, ensuring you make an informed decision when selecting the best X-ray equipment for your needs.

What Is Computed Radiography (CR)?

Under the umbrella of modern medical imaging lies computed radiography (CR), a technology that has transformed how you capture and process X-ray images. Invented in the 1980s, CR systems employ a unique combination of photostimulable phosphor (PSP) plates and specialized scanners to digitize X-ray images.

As you expose the PSP plate to X-ray radiation, it stores the energy, which is later released as visible light when scanned by a dedicated CR reader. This light is then converted into a digital image, allowing easy storage, retrieval, and analysis. Through this intricate process, CR systems offer a flexible, cost-effective solution for digitizing traditional film-based X-ray imaging while enhancing the overall efficiency of your practice.

What is Digital Radiography (DR)?

Digital radiography (DR) is a cutting-edge technology that has revolutionized the field of medical imaging. 

Unlike its CR counterpart, DR systems capture X-ray images directly onto digital detectors, bypassing the need for intermediate steps such as scanning phosphor plates. These detectors, either flat-panel or charge-coupled devices (CCDs), swiftly convert X-ray radiation into digital signals, resulting in an instantaneous, high-resolution image. 

As a result, with DR technology, you will witness remarkable improvements in workflow efficiency, image quality, and diagnostic capabilities.

What Are the Differences Between Digital Radiography (DR) and Computed Radiography (CR) Systems?

As you delve into the distinctions between digital radiography (DR) and computed radiography (CR) systems, several key differences emerge, shaping how you capture, process, and analyze X-ray images. 

These differences include image acquisition, image quality, workflow efficiency, radiation exposure, and cost & maintenance.

Image Acquisition

DR captures images directly onto digital detectors, leading to faster image processing and availability. CR uses a cassette-based system, with images first captured on a photostimulable phosphor plate that’s later digitized by a separate scanner, taking longer to produce the final image. This typically makes DR systems the best choice for quick and convenient image acquisition.

Image Quality

DR systems generally offer superior image quality compared to CR, boasting higher spatial resolution and a broader dynamic range. This improved image quality enables better visualization of fine structures and subtle variations in tissue density, enhancing diagnostic capabilities. However, for many practices, the image quality afforded by CR systems is sufficient or serves as a more convenient secondary system.

Workflow Efficiency, System Flexibility, and Integration

DR systems boast shorter image processing times, eliminating the need to scan phosphor plates. This results in a faster, more efficient workflow for your practice.DR systems often integrate better with existing electronic health record (EHR) systems and streamlined workflows, simplifying image management and communication. While more versatile in accommodating various cassette sizes, CR systems may present challenges when integrating with modern digital workflows.

Radiation Exposure

DR systems typically require lower radiation doses, as their digital detectors are more sensitive to X-ray radiation. This translates to reduced exposure for both patients and staff. DR systems typically require lower radiation doses than CR systems to produce high-quality images. Reducing radiation exposure benefits patients and medical staff, making DR an attractive option for practices focused on minimizing radiation risks.

Cost and Maintenance

DR systems have higher upfront costs but often lower long-term expenses due to reduced maintenance requirements and faster workflow efficiency. 

CR systems have lower initial costs but may require more frequent maintenance and can result in higher expenses in the long run due to slower imaging processes.

As you weigh the pros and cons of DR and CR systems, consider the specific needs of your practice and the long-term benefits each technology can bring to your imaging capabilities. By understanding these fundamental differences, you can make a more informed decision when choosing between digital and computed radiography systems for your practice.

What Are the Pros & Cons of Each System

Each technology comes with its unique set of advantages and drawbacks. To simplify your decision-making process, we’ve outlined the key pros and cons of each system:

Digital Radiography (DR)

As a newer and more sophisticated technology, DR systems benefit from several vital technical advantages. However, these benefits come at a premium and require a compromise on other critical features:


  1. Superior Image Quality: DR systems produce higher-resolution images, enhancing diagnostic capabilities.
  2. Faster Workflow: Direct image capture onto digital detectors streamlines the imaging process and significantly reduces processing time.
  3. Lower Radiation Dose: DR systems require lower radiation doses due to increased sensitivity, reducing exposure for patients and staff.


  1. Higher Initial Cost: DR systems often have a higher upfront cost, which may be a barrier for some practices.
  2. Less Portability: While portable DR systems exist, they’re typically less compact and more cumbersome than CR systems, potentially limiting their use in specific settings.
  3. Steeper Learning Curve: While DR is a convenient and efficient technology, learning to use DR may be initially challenging for practices that have long used CR systems.

Computed Radiography (CR)

While CR is an older technique, it has long been the workhorse of X-ray imaging. Its tenure has made CR a familiar and efficient tool, but this technology has begun to fall short compared to newer technologies.


  1. Cost-Effective: CR systems typically have a lower initial investment than DR systems, making them an attractive option for practices with budget constraints.
  2. Compatibility: CR technology can retrofit existing analog X-ray equipment, allowing for a smoother transition to digital imaging.
  3. Portability: The lightweight design of phosphor plates makes them easily transportable, providing flexibility in various clinical settings.


  1. Lower Image Quality: CR images generally have a lower resolution than DR, which may impact diagnostic accuracy.
  2. Slower Workflow: The need to scan phosphor plates in a CR reader adds extra steps, resulting in a longer image processing time.
  3. Maintenance: CR systems require regular phosphor plates and CR reader maintenance, adding to ongoing operational costs.

Final Thoughts

As you contemplate the ideal X-ray equipment for your practice, the choice between digital and computed radiography systems hinges on various factors. While both technologies offer unique benefits and challenges, understanding the distinctions between them is crucial in determining which system aligns best with your practice's needs and long-term objectives.

If you have any questions or require further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of experts here at Maven Imaging. You can reach us by phone or by filling out our online contact form, and we'll be more than happy to assist you in finding the perfect imaging solution for your practice.

Tags: Digital X-ray System

Chad Hutchison

Written by Chad Hutchison

Founder and CEO of Maven Imaging, Chad Hutchison has been in the medical imaging equipment market since 2003. As his business grew, he pioneered buying and selling medical equipment online and eventually began offering leasing and financing to meet market demands and help customers. His market expertise goes beyond traditional medical imaging and finance support, as he’s spearheading cloud-based lending solutions for vendors across the sector.